The narrative around climate change mitigation has been dominated by the “Green New Deal” proposal popularized by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The final text of the resolution, introduced with Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), was recently released and is available here. The resolution is non-binding, however it provides a framework that will likely guide the discussion on how to tackle climate change from the national level.
The resolution itself is slightly ambiguous in its call for eliminating carbon emissions in the energy sector, a fact that energy experts on Twitter quickly jumped on. The text of the bill calls for 100% of energy to come from “clean, renewable, and zero-carbon” sources.
But does that include all sources that are clean or renewable or zero-emission, which would include technologies such as nuclear, bio-mass, and carbon capture? Or does it intentionally mean and, such that only renewable sources such as wind and solar would count? Experts were originally unsure and wondered if the text was intended to be vague.
I read it to mean that sources must have all three attributes -- clean, renewable, and zero-emission. If a resource only needed one attribute, it should have said 'or.' And if "clean"-only resources meet the goal, that brings us back to https://t.co/dHhFQZgtI7— Ari Peskoe (@AriPeskoe) February 7, 2019
On the other hand, a fact sheet circulated by Ocasio-Cortez’s office and posted by NPR included language that explicitly noted the world envisioned by Ocasio-Cortez and her Green New Deal proposal would “transition off of nuclear… as fast as possible”. The fact sheet was also dismissive of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS), noting that they believed the correct way to capture carbon is to “plant trees and restore our natural ecosystems.”
When this information first came to light, it was unclear whether this FAQ was intended to represent an official FAQ of the Green New Deal resolution or simply Ocasio-Cortez’s personal perspective on how the the political process should proceed.
Eventually Sen. Markey, coauthor of the bill, noted in a press conference that the resolution is explicitly meant to be technology agnostic. So contrary to previous belief, the information in the fact sheet is not intended to represent the official position on how the Green New Deal should handle various technologies.
At the end of the day, it appears that the Green New Deal proposal was written to be a broad, sweeping agenda that doesn’t get bogged down with details such as “what qualifies as clean?”. As a non-binding resolution, it makes sense that the proposal was intended to call attention to the issue at hand more than provide a perfectly polished legislative solution.
This gives everyone, politicians and energy advocates included, the space to hold their own opinion while still supporting the resolution. Ocasio-Cortez can be anti-nuclear power and the pro-nuclear camp can continue to be nuclear power advocates while both supporting the lofty goals laid out in the plan. Whether or not nuclear power will be explicitly supported by future legislation is a fight for another day.